Home Buying in 08823>Question Details

Balaji, Home Buyer in Parlin, NJ

Why don't we build more concrete homes in the US?

Asked by Balaji, Parlin, NJ Fri Sep 10, 2010

Why are we still relying on wood? Are we stuck in the 18th century?

Help the community by answering this question:


Hi Balaji.

Yes, most places in the US are still stuck in the 18th century!

I guess when you say 'concrete homes', you're referring to poured concrete, not CBS, concrete block structures, right?

When I lived in the Middle East and was always amazed at how they built poured concrete houses and buildings. To me, they always seemed a million times stronger than the way we build in the US. When I lived in Philly and GC'd in NJ, and saw new houses going up all the time, they were exactly as you said, just like the first house built of the 'three little pigs', from straw. In NJ, I would watch houses going up with stick frames, 1/2" plywood on the exterior, 3/8'' foam on top of that, then vinyl siding on top of the foam. I mean, WHAT'S HOLDING THE HOUSE TOGETHER???? Nothing. They're not built for severe storms, it's a joke. Since they're not getting hit with heavy storms, nobody cares. Yet.

Now I live in FL. You cannot build like that where I live here. Those kinds of houses simply do not exist because of Miami-Dade hurricane codes. Everything down here is built with CBS, concrete block, reinforced with steel bars, and hurricane impact windows. CBS construction would be an excellent way to build up north, it's a happy medium between poured concrete and wooden frames. Your house won't be eaten by termites, won't burn like wood, and won't rot. They're much more soundproof and insulated. You can finish the exteriors beautifully. The inside is finished easily with drywall and making changes are simple and the norm, I see them done all of the time.

Building with concrete block, or CBS, gives you a MUCH higher quality home, no doubt about it.

Scott Miller, Realty Associates, Boca Raton, FL
p.s. here's my 3 little pigs blog: http://www.trulia.com/blog/scott_miller/2010/09/nothing_beat…
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Sep 12, 2010
Scott... wish I could have answered your question in 2010 with today;s FoamKrete.com
Flag Mon Jan 11, 2016
Stuck in the 18th century?? It's a simple matter of economics.
Flag Mon Jul 27, 2015
Hello Scott,
I live in south Jersey. I am not comfortable in buying a wooden house with shingles on roof, some plastic stuffing as insulation and exterior finishing with again some more plastic. I really want to buy a home made of concrete blocks. Is it allowed in NJ?

Thanks for reading.
Flag Mon Feb 24, 2014
Come to Florida and you'll see lots of concrete homes. I live in a resort area, so many of the Buyers I work with are from "up north." The majority ask to see block homes--They don't want wood. Most are concerned about the potential for termites and moisture damage with frame homes. In this climate, concrete is the preferred building material,

Two common styles of homes here are the Mediterranean or Spanish style, with arches and a barrel tile roof, and the 1920s bungalow style, with a metal roof and large front porch. Both are commonly built with concrete,

The first is usually made of concrete block, finished with stucco. And the latter is built with a concrete siding, like Hardie Board, that looks like wood, but is resistant to both termites and moisture, and has a life expectancy of 50 years. I've also seen a lot of oceanfront "stilt homes" here either originally built with Hardie Board, or remodeled with it. It holds up well in the salt air.

Please understand, it's not that I don't like wood. I love it. Growing up in the Northeast, I lived in a lot of wooden homes, some of them quite old. Before moving to Florida, I lived in a house that looked like a ski lodge--It had wooden walls inside and out, and, in the A-frame, a wooden ceiling. Wood is warm, and homey, and comforting, especially on a snowy, winter day.

However, like Terry, I also would like to see builders and architects explore other possibilities for housing, including prefabricated homes, and unusual designs and materials. And, also like Terry, I know of several good housing ideas that never really "took off." Two of my personal favorites are the solar home by DeckHouse, and the Katrina Cottage.

The solar home was built just east of Route 7 in Ridgefield, CT. I believe it was built in the late 1970s or early 1980s. Does anybody remember it besides me?

The first question I ever asked on this forum was about Katrina Cottages and nobody ever answered it, so I guess not many people are familiar with that design either.

Both of these homes were prefabricated to keep costs down. Both are stylish and appealing. Perhaps when we work through our current housing inventory, and the construction industry recovers, some of these earlier designs will warrant a second look. If you'd like to learn more about Katrina Cottages, you may want to look at the website referenced below.

Warm regards,
Maggie Hawk, REALTOR
(386) 314-1149
Watson Realty Corp
2 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Sep 11, 2010
RCC pile foundations, beams and roofs wit brick walls will save lives in Oklahoma..
Sukkumar George.
Flag Tue Mar 25, 2014
My input would be simple aesthetics. People buy largely based upon "curb appea." Concrete, unless it was designed by I. M. Pei, is generally not very appealing to most people's sensibilities.
2 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Sep 11, 2010
I am a homebuilder in Arkansas and I can tell yu one reason is the initial cost. All a contractor needs to build a wooden hose is a few simple tools consting no more than a couple hundred dollars. But to build a concrete house correctly you either have to spend a lot more money buying Styrofoam forms that adds to the cost that no one is willing to give the extra money for. Or Buy a set of forms and pour th house that way. You can keep the cost of the house down using forms the only problem is that these forms can cost Around $250,000 and very few contractors can afford to put out that kind of money.

I do have plans to buy a set this fall and start building concrete homes this way. I too have travled and know that concrete is a much better way to build.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Aug 7, 2013
I dont think is economics.... In Puerto Rico you can find beautyfull homes in concrete for a fraction of one in USA.
Flag Tue Nov 10, 2015
no way, it is not about the costs. Once again, buy a few week long vacation to any other country in Europe and visit all the house construction sites to learn that it is very very cheap.
example of porous concrete bricks (concrete as a base and static material is of course used): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zfy4Ap-GFUM
example of baked bricks house: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Z8qIrt_Guc
To pour concrete, everyone uses mixer truck with pump and jib, tons of concrete are poured and placed in minutes, very efficient, very cheap etc etc. On each topic of house building we can compare technologies, steps and prices
Flag Tue Oct 7, 2014

Although concrete certainly has a lot of applications--commercial tilt-ups, for example, are largely constructed of concrete and steel I-beams to ensure rigidity, concrete has never been the product of choice for the residential homeowner. The reason of course has more to do with the inability to change concrete structures than with the look or structural integrity of the building materials.

In fact, many buildings here in California are made entirely of concrete. I think immediately of two high rises built here in Santa Clara and Campbell, California--the heart of earthquake country. The buildings are definitely rigid, and have made it through countless earthquakes. But the homes are also inflexible to change--windows cannot be easily removed or replaced, walls cannot be shifted around, no one can put pictures on the walls, the building is cold, the heating and ventilation within the homes must be carefully controlled to prevent the accumulation of moisture, and the walls cannot be easily painted. Overall, the look is fairly sterile, and today's buyer is not a big fan.

Obviously, one of the greatest attributes to wood housing is the ability to easily and affordably change the structure's interior and exterior elements and to add more space to the structure. These are all not possible with a concrete building--once constructed a specific way, it will stay this way until knocked down. And, to be frank, as an agent, I can tell you that NONE of my clients has ever bought a home that they have not, eventually, changed, so again, concrete would not be the best possible building material.

So unless the American consumer drastically shifts in his/her ideal of housing and will never want to change the home's layout or design, then developers will never build this type of structure for sale as residential units. There will always be concrete structures in the commercial world, but I do not foresee the same demand in the residential market in the near future.

Thanks for your question!!

Grace Morioka, SRES
Area Pro Realty
San Jose, CA
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sat Sep 11, 2010
I've seen many commercial buildings that have taken out walls, closed up a window or added a new one. So it's not that hard. As for pictures Concrete screws are not hard to find and if you hang drywall on the interior they would hang just like a wood frame home except it would be a much stronger structure. They would make a lot of sense in the midwest for tornado protection and on the coast for hurricanes. There are many finishes available for exterior, but let's face it most builders aren't very creative and won't try something new. The builders aren't making them so the public can't buy them.
Flag Tue Mar 27, 2012
Hi Balaji,

That might work in New Jersey but here in California the earthquakes would knock down concrete homes in a heartbeat!

good question

Chris Blasic
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Sep 10, 2010
Balaji - don't listen to anyone on this. Concrete home would do just fine in NJ and in CA. Truth is contractors aren't knowledgeable enough to do it economically. They either don't know how, can't find the crews, etc ... Usually the only ones with knowledge on how to build are commercial / retail contractors ... and they charge rates that would make you cry.
Flag Sat Apr 30, 2016
Most of the tall commercial buildings in CA are steel frame and/or wood mix use. They just put up a new set of 10 story condos and the only part that was solely concrete and rebar was the foundation. Everything else was wood and steel framed
Flag Tue Sep 1, 2015
In Iceland they build almost only concrete homes. I would say there is alot of earthquakes and they still stand with no problems.

So why would it knock them in California but not in Icleand?
Flag Thu Feb 7, 2013
uh then what about all the commercial buildings that are made of concrete in CA ? They don't seem to be falling down.
Flag Tue Mar 27, 2012
Concrete homes are not all that durable. They are subject to cracking with temperature changes and settlement. Concrete also absorbs water as we all know. That can lead to mold. I have appraised 40 and 50 year old concrete homes any they always smell musty and moldy. Meanwhile there are wood structures that date from the Revolutionary War. So there you have it.


Marc Paolella
Relocation Director/Appraiser
Century 21 Joe Tekula Realtors
Phone (direct): (973) 584-4235
Coolest map-based home search: http://www.marcpaolella.com
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Sep 10, 2010
The parent comment and the very next one have no idea what they are talking about. There are many ways of building a concrete home. Slip stone concrete, insulated concrete form, autoclaved aerated concrete, etc, etc. You can build it with or without rebarb reinforcement, make the entire building earthquake resistant. Lots of concrete homes in japan. Don't really hear too much about the homes flattening people there now do you? There are pros and cons to every building type but the examples given are not it. And stone form homes last centuries. Well longer than stick homes built in the 1800s. And those stick homes from the 1800s have been refurbished at least twice since then.
Flag Tue Mar 29, 2016
It's amazing how many experts on here give personal experience about the setbacks of concrete over wood and steelframe construction, and yet some novice comes along and says "None of your experience is valid because I have opinions based on a Europe is great mentality." Alot of homes in Europe are woodframed unless they're old castles. Also, the survivability ratio during a building collapse in a concrete structure is nearly zero compared to a wood framed, and there are multiple new earthquake resistant add-ons that are next to nothing to buy and install. Do you ever wonder why in Chile, the last time they had an earthquake, so many people died compared to similar quakes in the U.S. within the past 50 years? Concrete. Flattens a human like a pancake..
Flag Tue Sep 1, 2015
... Ummmm, no.
Just no--
There are so many things that are inaacurate/misleading with this comment.
Flag Sat Jan 3, 2015
you are wrong, concrete mixture could be waterresistant.
As I read this discussion, all of you have to come to Europe to see how are family houses built. An average concrete family house could be built for 40-60 thousands dollars. I really don't understand, why the all technology, knowledge and experiences are not transferred into US building industry. We have very strict laws about the energy efficiency of houses, about the moisture, the noise, insulation in general. The house should have very deep councrete foundation, then the walls are made of baked bricks wide 20 inches (e.g. http://goo.gl/GfcIw7 ), ceilings are with steel reinforced concrete with insulation layer, walls are outside insulated with styrofoam, rockwooll etc. on top of that goes roughcast, stucco and finish (paint or whatever), inside wall is cover with roughcast, stucco and paint as well. the floor is made of stell-reinforced bottom concrete, then water and therm insulation, top concrete, noise-foil, wooden floor...
Flag Tue Oct 7, 2014
What a great question ! You don't build a concrete home in the north due to cold weather or in the west for earth quakes. Whatever century idea it is, it's still a matter of common sense.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Mar 17, 2016
In this country the government, construction companies, and Home Depots does not want concrete homes because does not generate work like houses made from wood and plastic. Each time a hurricane or a tornado hits a place lots of wooden houses are destroyed and new wooden houses will be build and again destroyed by the next hurricane or tornado. This is crazy but I think this is way construction is a big business and jobs are plentiful in USA and it is a nice source for taxes.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Dec 30, 2015
If we build concrete homes then how the builders, contractors, insurance can make money?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Dec 30, 2015
Ever notice the best type of house according to a real estate salesman or woman is the particular one they a selling at the moment?
Most homes in Germany are cinder block, and are expensive enough to require hundred year mortgages in some cases.
Even their factory built homes are cinder block!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Dec 28, 2015
Jaime Boxer, Punta del Este , Uruguay
I am an architect from Uruguay, patenting a concrete building system for houses, in the US.
I'm building beautiful concrete houses ranging in the 3000sqft, trendy and flexible, great energy savings, you heat them with very little energy and are cool and pleasant in summer.
How do I introduce them in the US, a big market, going to EXPOBUILD????
My mail jaimeboxer@hotmail.com
site http://www.boxeranaya.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Nov 26, 2015
It will be hard to get afoot print in the US from the outside. There is already deep and structured ways of building homes across the US. There are certain parts of homes built by each specific labor trade. It could be different in different parts of the US. If you have a new way, it would have to be afordable to build for the people making homes. They want the profit. And it would have to be made from materials readily available in the US. Your best bet is to come here and talk to people.
Flag Sat Jan 16, 2016
It's simply a question of cost. If you want to pay for cast-in-place or precast walls, it will be easy to find someone to build it for you. In most places, it will cost much more. Builders who don't build-to-order have to build houses that are competitively priced.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jul 27, 2015
I think the trend for this is changing. A lot of people have trouble with change. It takes a lot of examples of something working for some people to decide that it's time to start making changes. I think that's what it boils down to. It will most likely change over time. Concrete home definitely do seem like a good way to go though.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri May 1, 2015
I really hate that everything is wood!! I much rather live in an cement based home than wood. Plus we are wasting so much trees on these houses. I really wish the US would stop.
If you go to Mexico all you see are concrete homes, huge beautiful home made out of concrete. I'm only 20 and believe me, I will not be buying a wooden house when I am in that stage of life.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Apr 6, 2015
I really hate that everything is wood!! I much rather live in an cement based home than wood. Plus we are wasting so much trees on these houses. I really wish the US would stop.
If you go to Mexico all you see are concrete homes, huge beautiful home made out of concrete. I'm only 20 and believe me, I will not be buying a wooden house when I am in that stage of life.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Apr 6, 2015
Frankly concrete building leave me cold. Literally and figuratively.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun May 11, 2014
let's called it durable house. The concrete as a material should be used for ground base, for all the statically important constructions within the house (ceilings, footstall, pillars, burden support. The walls could be of course made of concrete, but it is very rare, because the walls we built from very wide bricks, which are joined into concrete parts of house construction with steel framing e.g. On top of the walls is square set (concrete with a lot of interconnected steel rods), this all as tied on ceiling, etc. All the house is extreme durable, energy efficient, the warm is made of bricks, wood inside, but the construction parts should be of concrete, steel, brick, porous concrete, nothing else.
Flag Tue Oct 7, 2014
Yes US is still in 18th Century ! coutries like India have all big sturdy concrete houses and US such big economy they say still in 18th century houses hahahah
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Apr 1, 2014
I come from the Dominican Republic and there no one would even consider building a new house in anything other than concrete. When my wife and I moved to Miami and decided to build a new house, we built it using concrete block and steel walls and a slanted 9 inch poured concrete roof. We built 4,000 square feet and the shell cost was only twenty thousand more with a concrete roof compared to a traditional wood roof. My total home insurance policy with a traditional roof would have been $7,500.00 per year. My current Home Insurance policy with my solid concrete home is $800.00 a year. The reason is there is no hurricane or fire risk. Do the math and you will conclude there is no reason why all homes in Florida and in those areas of the U.S. subject to Tornados are not built in solid concrete. It is beyond me how this nation with all the technology has not figured this one out?

Frank Cabreja
Miami, Fl.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 13, 2014
3 Years after i asked this question, i currently own a home built of Stucco and Wood. We are currently in Litigation against the home builder.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Aug 24, 2013
What happened? Who was the builder?
Flag Fri Aug 29, 2014
We build wood homes in certain parts of US because wood is cheaper easily available resource and if there are no hurricanes or earthquakes. Wood gives some advantages but it also has some disadvantages.

I think, in tristate area a concrete home would be more valuable in long term.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat May 11, 2013
Planned obsolescence is why they build wood homes, along with not being disaster proof. A well built concrete, adobe or stone home will last for centuries. A wood home typically lasts for 50 to 100 years, unless a hurricane or some other natural disaster destroys it first. I know there is an occasional exception here or there that someone could cite, but well built concrete, stone, adobe homes last for centuries, wood homes do not. I have a Sister in Law who grew up in the City of Guadalajara in Central Mexico. She says they have no fire departments there because all of the buildings, including single family homes, are made from concrete. If a piece of furniture catches fire in someones house, it just burns itself out, the concrete house does not catch on fire. In the USA, a typical wood home will catch on fire in 3 minutes if a piece of furniture, or whatever, catches fire, because almost all of the houses are made from wood. Concrete homes are more expensive, yes, because they are rare, so there is little competition between concrete home builders. If more concrete homes were built on a larger scale, the prices would come down due to more competition between the concrete builders. If countries like Mexico and others, which have a significantly lower standard of living than the US, build primarily from concrete, stone and adobe, there is no reason a wealthy country like the USA couldn't build concrete or stone or adobe homes on a mass scale. As long as you add steel rebar to the concrete, stone, or adobe homes, the homes are very safe from earthquakes, in addition to their other advantages over wood homes. The majority of the houses in Europe are either concrete or stone, to my understanding.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Feb 4, 2013
I currently live in Germany and, yes, the homes here are concrete. The Germans often wonder why we still build with wood, especially in hurricane-prone areas.
Flag Sun Apr 6, 2014
I currently live in Germany and, yes, the homes here are almost all made of concrete. A new building went up two home down on my street. I could see it being built with the cement block and a layer of insulation that was probably 12" thick. The Germans are often baffled why we still use wood.
Flag Sun Apr 6, 2014
Check the utility bills between Concrete Block and Wood house. Wood houses are much more efficient. And the utility bills come every month. Forever.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Oct 13, 2012
because you have not enough knowledge how to build properly concrete houses, nothing else
Flag Tue Oct 7, 2014
I've seen the utility bills in both concrete and stick built homes within the same area and find the opposite of what you say. Concrete homes, in general, are much more effecient, both looking at bills and looking at the laws of heat transfer.
Flag Tue Jul 16, 2013
Because its cheaper for the builders to build the house and they can still charge top dollar for them.
Web Reference: http://www.sjrates.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Sep 12, 2010
Concrete homes are not considered attractive and thus have little or no curb appeal. Most of the concrete homes I've seen are these large and imposing homes, built on very small lots, and contrary to the other homes in the neighborhood. Seems like the home was inexpensive to build as compared to the price of the lot. When they become overwhelming in the neighborhood their value is lower. When I've seen these large concrete homes on small lots, their resale value is lower.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Sep 11, 2010
At least we should learn from the "fairy tale about the three little pigs"!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Sep 10, 2010
I'm with you! Homes are still being built as food for termites and guaranteed to be dissolved by dry rot, mold and bugs! But out here in California, I wouldn't want a concrete home that would probably cave in, in an earthquake, and from what I remember of basements in the east coast, don't think I want a place for mold to grow! But I bet it won't be long until we start seeing a lot more composite materials that are stronger and more bug resistant show up. I guess metal beams are probably expensive, but I am replacing any wood on my home repairs with TREX and that concrete flooring for underneath ceramic tile instead of plywood. I'm also a big believer in the future of modular homes. Manufactured homes pre-made in the factory still are seen as less quality than conventional housing. But I remember going to the World's Fair up in Montreal back in 1967, I think, where they unveiled what I think was called Housing for Humanity, modular apartments that could be put together like legos. It's hard to believe that was seen as the future back then, is still not accepted, but I really believe that soon prefab homes, built with materials such as trex, will become the new way of addressing low cost housing and get back to simpler living.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Sep 10, 2010
Steel rod reinforced pillars,EQ resistant steel reinforced roofing and concrete pile foundation home is lot better and cheaper if U S builders are favourably inclined. They are water resistant, wind resistant, moth resistant and most of fire proof. If the reinforcing steel is cured embalmed properly the structure will last centuries.If wood is the ideal building materials why bridges,dykes, dams are built with concrete. US A may say there is freedom of living but everything is decided by some group of people. There is no freedom to buy homes on your own.There is agent system.There is no builder to build home brick and concrete structure because of cartels.Clothes no variety in design,texture,colour and materials.Everywhere you see it is black or dark blue.Stereo typed. Living stereo typed.No one goes to college,live in mortgaged matchbox homes,eat meat for food with milk products only.No variety in products in the departmental stores.People always live in fear of hospitalisation.
Flag Sat May 7, 2016
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